june 2002

6.3.02
Weird. I was listening to Winamp at work a few days ago, and I had it set to play all the MP3's on my computer (which at this point are only a fraction of my total CD collection) in random order. The first thing that came on was Nirvana's "Lithium", from "Nevermind". Then the opening strains of "Breed" started, and I thought it was a little unusual that out of 700+ songs, the randomizer would have chosen two songs off the same record in a row. But I soon realized that it wasn't Nirvana's version of "Breed"—it was Steve Earle's, from his recently released "Sidetracks", a collection of one-offs, soundtrack inclusions, and other assorted bits.

In some ways, the Steve Earle version is even better than the original—more angry, more full of raw emotion. The songs on Nevermind, as powerful as they are, always have that undercurrent of ironic distance that makes them a little less immediate than the songs of the punk traditions that grunge came from.

The only other Nirvana cover song that I remember is "Smells Like Teen Spirit" as done by the Melvins (one of Cobain's favorite bands) with Leif Garrett guesting on vocals. Yes, that Leif Garrett. No, it wasn't as good as the original.

But it wasn't as bad as you might think, either.

6.3.02
After visiting Green Bank on the morning of our third day of vacation, we next headed for Cass, home of the Cass Scenic Railroad (and not much else). We had gotten our tickets for the noon train (the one that goes all the way up the mountain) on our way through to Green Bank that morning, so all we had to do was get over to the tracks and wait for the train to show up. The train goes up a mountain to what used to be a logging camp for red spruce—it only grows at very high elevations, which is why they had to go all the way up the mountain to get it.

My dad took us all up on the train when I was a kid, but I didn't enjoy it at all then—it was five hours of family hell. No one really wanted to be there, I think, not even dad, but he had decided that that was what we were doing that day and that was that.

The first hour or so is pretty boring—you're riding up the lower elevations, and no matter which side of the train you look out, all you can see is the trees growing on the mountain. Plus, you have to do a couple of switchbacks (kind of like tacking in yachting) to get up the initially steep part of the mountain. After a few miles, you get to Whitaker station, which is where the other, shorter trains stop. There is a food stand there, and since we had neglected to bring any lunch with us, we ended up just getting a couple of hotdogs there and eating at one of the picnic tables overlooking the mountains. This is also the first place on the mountain where you start to get really good views, and those views continue pretty much all the way up the rest of the mountain.

After that, it's a seven mile ride up to the summit (with a brief stop for the engines to take on water), but it only takes about as long as the first four miles did because it's not as steep and there aren't as many turns. Once at the top, you can see for miles; it's the second highest point in the state, and even though it was hazy, we had a good view of the huge Green Bank Telescope that we had seen up close that morning.

The ride back home seemed to take a really long time, probably because we still hadn't fully recovered from our bike ride the day before and we had put in another very full day. Dinner that night was asparagus and ricotta filled tortellini with a mushroom alfredo sauce, plus a salad and bread. We did some packing after dinner so that we wouldn't have a ton to do before we left the next morning, but our hearts weren't really in it, so we turned in and left most of it for the next day.

6.3.02
We drove home from West Virginia on Sunday, the day before Memorial Day, but we left early enough that we had time to stop and see any sites that might happen to catch our interest along the way. We were thinking about something in the Seneca Rocks area, either the Seneca Rocks themselves or the nearby Seneca Caverns, but in the end, we settled on the Smoke Hole Caverns, another cave system near Seneca Rocks that was right off of our route.

We got there around 12:40, and the next tour was supposed start at 1:00, so we figured we had enough time for a quick bite at the snackbar since we hadn't had any lunch yet. We ordered a hot dog and french fries, figuring that those were some of the easiest items to prepare, but we were still waiting for them at 12:55 when they announced that the next tour group needed to start gathering over near the entrance to the caverns. They brought us our food right after that, but we had to wolf it down to make the tour because we didn't want to wait another half hour for the next ones.

The caverns were okay. The had a couple of pools that I liked, a some decent formations, but they didn't really compare to the Indian Echo Caverns that we went to up in Pennsylvania (I was going to link to my account of that visit, but I just went back to it and realized that I didn't really go into a lot of detail about it because I had already written so much about that vacation and I was getting a little tired of it).

At any rate, the tour took about an hour, and I played around with different ISO and exposure lengths to see what worked in the low light of the caverns. After that, we went back into the gift shop (West Virginia's biggest, according to their literature) and bought Julie a pair of moccasins that she's been looking for for a while (she originally got a pair when she was a teenager on vacation with her parents, and has worn through several pairs, but hasn't been able to find them anywhere recently). I also got a little bag of gold nuggets gum, which I remember getting in some gift shop when I was a little kid (it actually wasn't very good—it started to taste like lemon-scented furniture polish after a minute or two).

After that it was a fairly straightforward drive back home, where we were able to relax and look forward to still having one day off before we had to go back to work.

6.4.02
Is there anyone who really gives a rat's ass about the Tonys?

6.4.02
Last Friday, the whole office went out to lunch together to celebrate the end of the admissions cycle for this year. I felt a little like I didn't deserve to be there, since I was only hired in March and didn't really start to contribute significantly until April (when I got my computer), but it was still nice to get out of the office and see some of my officemates in a more relaxed social setting.

If I had to pick one person in the office that I'd like to get to know better, it would be Kathryn, one of the Ops people who is primarily responsible for international students. Luckily, she arrived right after I did and sat down right next to me, where we carried on a fairly interesting conversation until her time was somewhat monopolized by our boss John, the director of admissions.

She is fairly young (around 24, I think), but she is a lot more mature than most of the other 24 year olds in the office (and even some of the 30 year olds). I gather that she has been with admissions for a about a year, but she is an aspiring singer who graduated from Peabody and seems to have a much larger sense of the world than most of the in-betweeners who populate the admissions office (meaning that they don't view their job in admissions as a career, but rather as something that they're doing in between school and whatever they end up really doing for a living). We talked a little about musicals, and school, and Shakespeare, and it was really pleasant to have a semi-adult conversation with someone in the office that didn't involve a purchasing request or a meeting agenda.

After lunch, I returned to my car and discovered that I had parked in the wrong place, a pay lot next to the marina rather than the free lot for the retail shops along the harbor. I had been there just over two hours, but the attendant insisted that I owed him $10. I only had $8 in my wallet, which I reluctantly gave him and he reluctantly accepted as payment before raising the gate for me. Neither of us were satisfied with the transaction.

In addition to lunch, John had also given us all the rest of the day off, so I went to pick up Julie and head home for a short rest before gearing up for the hour-plus drive to Greg's rehearsal dinner in Pennsylvania.

6.5.02
Is it just me, or has Orbitz purchased every pop-up and pop-under ad on the internet? I haven't even seen an Xcam ad in the past few days.

6.5.02
The dreams I remember are often recurring ones, in that they take place in one of several locations that I have visited before. Some of these are straightforward recurring dreams, where the dream is exactly the same every time. The two of these that I remember most vividly are both from my childhood.

The first is a nightmare that I would have when I was three or four or five. I have never figured out what triggered it, although looking back now I realize that this was the time when my parents were going through their divorce and I was undergoing the last of my eye surgeries to correct a congenital defect.

It begins with me sitting inside of a large metal room: the walls are metal, the floor is metal, the ceiling is metal, the same kind of metal that air ducts are made out of. I begin to walk around the room, feeling for a door, when suddenly a portion of the wall slides up and reveals a corridor beyond. It, too, is made entirely of metal, and I enter it. It is curved, and splits off in multiple paths every 30 feet or so, so that soon I no longer know how to get back to my original room.

I wander for a couple of minutes, seeing other doors in the corridor but making no attempt to gain entry to the rooms they conceal. Then I notice that liquid is beginning to trickle down the corridors. It is sticky, and it is dark red, and I soon realize that it is blood. The trickle turns to a stream, and the stream to a river, and soon a torrent that is already at the level of my knees. I hear the rushing of the blood getting louder, so I look for refuge in one of the rooms. After trying a few doors that will not open, I finally find a room that is already open. I do not know if it is the original room or not. There are already a few inches of blood in the room, but when I close the door the it does not rise any farther. I pause for a moment, exhausted, shaking, and confused.

Then the walls begin to close in.

I don't remember even trying to find a way out. I just stand and watch as the walls get closer and closer. Just before the walls reach me, I wake up.

The second dream from my childhood is one that I remember having many, many times, so much so that there was a point when I knew that I was going to have it. It took me a little while to figure it out, but I eventually discovered that every time I had this dream, it was while I was sleeping in an unfamiliar place, like my grandparent's house or the bunk beds at summer camp. I would only have it for the first night or two; after that, I guess I started to feel comfortable. I remember having this dream when I was as young as four or five, and the last time I had it for sure was when I was around 13 or 14, although I may have had it a couple of times since. I cannot be sure, because I had it so many times that in the gauzy haze of awakening, I could easily substitute the memory of that dream for another that I have forgotten.

It starts out with me at street level in a big city. There are people on their way to work all around me, skyscrapers on every side, and a vendor selling fruit from a wooden pushcart. I don't know why I remember the fruit seller so well; he is selling a piece of fruit (an apple, I think) to a woman in a dark red wool coat who is wearing sunglasses. He is wearing a white apron with a red and white striped shirt underneath and wearing a straw hat. Maybe I remember him because it's him I'm looking at when I first hear the noise.

It is a deep, thumping rumble spaced out every few seconds and getting louder with each repetition. The crowds of people around me start to become aware of the noise, and the first curious pauses to identify the noise quickly turn to chaotic panic as the source of the thumps is revealed: a giant T-Rex which has just strolled into view from behind one of the skyscrapers. It is huge, maybe 40 stories, way bigger than a real T-Rex, which I would have known even as a child since I was obsessed with dinosaurs and astronauts.

Anyway. Everyone else is trying to run away from the dino, but I head into the nearest building for some reason. The fruit seller tries briefly to stop me, but he quickly turns and runs with the rest of the crowd. The security guard at the desk is asleep and is unaware of either my trespass or the giant lizard prowling around outside, so I head straight for the elevators and ride to the top floor. When I get out, I am standing in a giant room with a slanted ceiling of all glass. There is a big table around which are seated several business men in suits. They look quizzically at me for a second, but their attention quickly turns to the T-Rex head that is now staring into the conference room. I head up a short set of stairs along the wall to a small balcony area. As soon as I finish my climb, the dinosaur pushes his head through the glass and grabs one of the businessmen in his teeth. He then grabs another, and then another, before turning his gaze to me. He just stares at me for a few seconds, like he's trying to decide if I'm worth the effort (I am always a little kid in these dreams, even when I was having it as a young teenager). Then I wake up.

When I was very young, this dream used to frighten me a little, even with my love of all things dinosaur. But as I got older and started to realize that I had it every time I slept in a strange place, I began to look forward to it. It was a comfort blanket to me that went with me whenever I left home; no matter what else was happening, I knew that dream would be there at night when I was sleeping in a new place. I remember the first time I woke up away from home that I didn't have the dream; sad doesn't quite convey the way it felt not to have that dream with me anymore. It was a mix of nostalgia, wistfulness, and longing for things past; the French word tristesse probably comes closest to describing my sense of loss.

Hmm...I wasn't intending to write this long about these two dreams; they were merely a prelude to another dream I had about Lydia last week. But I guess we'll have to get to that tomorrow. Off to dreamland...

6.6.02
Holy cow. While doing some research on Hopkins for the interactive campus tour piece that I'm working on, I came across a brief mention that F. Scott Fitzgerald had lived in what are now student residences for a year while Zelda was receiving psychiatric treatment from Hopkins doctors. I did some follow up research on this, and found out that he is actually buried in Rockville, MD, where his father was born. I looked up the address of the church on Yahoo, and lo and behold, it's one that I've driven past a hundred times without ever realizing that it was the final resting place of Fitzgerald (it's actually right next door to the red line metro stop for Rockville). Not only that, it turns out that the F. Scott is really short for Francis Scott Key, the Maryland icon who wrote the Star Spangled Banner while watching the British attack Ft. McHenry in the Baltimore harbor.

And you think you know someone...

6.6.02
So. Back to my recurring dreams.

The other kind of recurring dream that I have is where I return to the same location over and over again, but have a different dream each time. It's a little like watching episodes of really surreal television shows, only I see one of these episodes maybe once or twice a year instead of every week.

I am a very distinct person in each of these different worlds, not too different from the person I am in the real world, but sometimes a different age, and always with a different history and a different life. Some of the locations I remember very well: a college campus, where I live on the fifth or sixth floor of a brick dorm, a giant house by the sea made mostly of concrete whose only point of access (besides the sea) is a narrow tree-lined dirt road, or a high school/ski resort on top of a mountain. There are several others, I know, but I can't remember them because I haven't been to them recently. As soon as I enter one of these dreamworlds, though, I know exactly who I am in it, and I remember everything that has happened in it before.

The one I had recently was a continuation of this dream about Lydia. The location is a weird combination ski resort/alternative high school on top of a snow-covered mountain. In the last dream, which I didn't remember the details of until I had this dream, I had spent the day with Lydia, a Saturday, I think, and we had made plans to meet again for lunch soon. She had written the day we were supposed to meet and her phone number on a piece of paper that I had in my pocket. She had also drawn a picture on the piece of paper.

In the most recent dream, it is a few days later, a Tuesday, and I realize that I have forgotten our lunch meeting and missed it. I root around in my pocket to find the piece of paper so I can call her and apologize. I get to a pay phone and start to dial her number, but every time I dial I hit a wrong number on the keypad and have to hang up and start over. I do this over and over again, until I am on the verge of crying in frustration at my inability to dial the number. It's then I notice that I was supposed to meet her the day before, Monday, not Tuesday.

I don't know why that strikes me as so important, but in the dream I just stand there and stare at the piece of paper. I don't even try to dial her number again. And then I wake up.

As I am waking up, I am still very much in the grips of the dreamworld, and when I realize that it was just another dream, it's both a relief and incredibly maddening. I lie there for a few moments, bewildered, and then my waking self begins to try and make sense of the dream.

After the last time I wrote about Lydia (on her birthday a few months ago), I decided to see how hard it would be to contact her. The last I had heard from her, she was still in Richmond working at a financial services company with Pete, another old friend from NCSSM. I decided Pete would be the most direct link, but the email address I had for him bounced back my letter. Then I tried Google, searching first for Lydia and then for Pete, and coming up with no new leads for either one. Finally, I remembered that Pete's wife had kept her maiden name, so I did a search for her. I found a match with a person working for UVA, and within an hour of writing to her, she wrote back and confirmed that she was his wife, and within an hour of that Pete wrote back to me himself.

He told me that Lydia had left the company a few months prior, following her physician husband to a new job in Atlanta, but he forwarded me an email that she had sent out before she left. It had her new email address, but also talked about her being pregnant, which means that by the time I read it she was a mother.

I sent Lydia a quick email wishing her a happy birthday, and she wrote back almost immediately, filling me in on some of the recent details of her life (such as the new baby, who was then four or five months old) and asking for mine. I wrote her back a decently long letter, to which she promised to reply to soon. But she hasn't yet, although it is many months later.

I started to think about these things in relation to the dream, and I realized that, if she had wanted to, the dream Lydia could have contacted me when I missed our lunch date, just as the real Lydia knows how to contact me. The fact that she has not doesn't necessarily mean that she dislikes me; it just means that we're no longer really part of each other's lives, and maybe it's time to say goodbye. I have a lot of trouble doing that with old friends, especially ones who have meant so much to me in the past. But maybe it's time to let Lydia go.

This realization makes me sad (tristesse again, a palpable sense of longing and loss), but it feels even worse when I think that I might be in the same situation with Regan, who is as close to me as a sister. Or used to be, anyway. I haven't seen her in over two years, despite many failed plans on her part to come and visit, and she never writes to me like she used to—I used to get these long, wonderful letters in her half-script, half-print handwriting, usually several pages on both sides and often postmarked from some country I will never go to. Phone calls don't really work for us, she doesn't really do the email thing, and it seems like it's just impossible for us to work out a plan for either of us to come and see the other. I miss her, and I love her, but I have no idea what's happening in her life right now, and no idea how I am supposed to fit into it.

6.7.02
Last Saturday was Greg's wedding, but as one of the groomsmen, my activities relating to the wedding started much earlier. Thursday night I had to drive up to York, PA after work (about an hour away from Baltimore) to pick up my tuxedo. And of course, because it was tux pick-up night for the first weekend in June, there was a line out the door when I got there. Luckily, we bumped into Greg and and Angie while we were there (he had just picked up his own tux), so instead of waiting in line forever for my fitting, I gave them my receipt and told them I'd be back in a few minutes. We went out to the car and gave Greg and Angie their gift, chatted with them for a few minutes, and then let them go on to one of their wedding-related appointments while I went back inside to make sure everything fit. Most of the outfit was fine, but the shoes were really tight. The woman insisted that they would be fine with thinner dress socks, and even though I didn't really believe her, I took the shoes anyway. On the way out we stopped at Bojangles for dinner and then drove another hour to get back home.

Friday was the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. We weren't in York this time, but instead in Hanover, PA, since Greg and Angie were getting married in Angie's grandmother's church. I thought it would be closer than York, but with the surprisingly heavy traffic, it took better than an hour to get to the church. We were late, but only by five minutes, so it didn't matter too much. After the relatively quick rehearsal, we went out to dinner at a little restaurant about 15 minutes away. Julie and I were sitting at a table with the other two groomsmen, neither of whom I had met before and neither of whom had brought a guest. I'm not great at conversation with new folks, so I was hoping one of them might kick-start something (especially because they both seemed pretty outgoing), but neither of them did. I started talking about work, hoping that someone would be bored and change the subject, but it turned out that both of them had an interest in what I do: Joe was a car dealer, but he went to school in marketing and was trying to get back into that line of work, and Matt was a graphic designer for a small firm in Philadelphia. We spent a lot of time talking about issues like branding, identity, and user experience, and that carried us most of the way through dinner. I especially liked Matt, who I had several good conversations with on Saturday as well.

Saturday was the big day, and despite leaving earlier than we had the night before, we still ended up about 15 minutes late to the church. We were supposed to be there at 11 to take the wedding photos before the ceremony, but I didn't feel too bad when we pulled up at 11:15, because the photographer was just unloading his equipment from the van; he hadn't even set up yet.

After the photographer got everything ready, the male members of the wedding party just sat for over an hour while the photographer took pictures of the bride and the maids of honor. Then there were a few shots with the bride and the groom, then the whole wedding party, and finally the guys individually. By that time, it was time to start thinking about the guests arriving (Matt and I had to usher, while Joe was responsible for keeping Greg calmed down in a room at the back of the church). It was then that I realized that I hadn't had anything to eat all day and I wasn't going to have anything until at least 3 or 4 in the afternoon. The wedding was scheduled to start at 2, and I just assumed for some reason that it would end by 3 and then we would have only a quick 10-15 ride to the reception where we would be eating buffet style snacks upon arrival.

Man, was I wrong. Not only did the ceremony go on until around 3:30, it was nearly 45 minutes to the reception location, and then another 45 minutes after that until we ate. The limo driver who was supposed to drive the wedding party to the reception had been scheduled poorly, so he was zooming down backroads doing 60 in a 35 zone, and doing it in a stretch limo at that. He was cutting people off, weaving in and out of lanes, and generally behaving like an ass. It wasn't his fault, really?he was suppposed to be in Harrisburg, over half an hour away, at 4:30, and it was already 4:15 by the time he dropped us off. Needless to say, it was interesting to see seven people packed into a six-person limo trying to finish off four bottles of champagne while being thrown around like passengers in a derailing train.

Greg and Angie were supposed to meet the photographers on the 17th green for a few more pictures (the reception was being held at a country club), but since the limo driver abandoned us at the front door, we weren't sure how to proceed. Luckily, one of the country club employees who was helping to coordinate the reception procured a couple of golf carts for us, and we all seven somehow mananged to pack ourselves in and onto the two carts we had been given and make our way out to the golf course.

When we got back more than half an hour later, we were ushed into a little room with a fruit and cheese platter to wait for the official start of the reception. After a few minutes, we were paired off and announced as we entered the hall, and finally we were able to sit down and eat. The food wasn't really all that great—the meal started off with a pretty good Italian wedding soup, and the salad that followed it was decent if a little ordinary, but the main course of chicken, broccoli, and stuffed potatoes was just awful. The chicken was dry and lifeless, the stuffed potatoes were mealy and overcooked, and, well, you all know how I feel about broccoli.

They did all the standard wedding stuff, like the toast from the best man (who hadn't prepared anything, so he just winged it), the couple's first dance, the cutting of the cake, etc. (include a very painful wedding party dance to "Brick House" where we were the only people on the dance floor, and I don't really dance and I don't really like to be the center of attention. Plus, my shoes, which had turned out to be way to small after all, were killing me by that point). At the end of the evening, we also did a wedding party shot together, which was weird for me—I haven't done a shot in years (to be fair, I was easily five years older than most of the wedding party, including the bride and groom).

Almost immediately after dinner, I left my seat on the dais and went over to sit with Julie, my old boss from CO2 Jeff, and his wife Andrea. It was good to talk to Jeff for a while—we haven't seen each other in a few months, and he has gotten a new job in that time. We were interrupted after a few minutes by the best man, who wanted me to come out and help decorate the car. I did, and Jeff and Andrea used that opportunity to excuse themselves and head back home. Before they left, though, I introduced Matt (the other groomsman, the designer from Philly) to Jeff, and they chatted for a bit before Jeff had to go. We made tentative plans to have dinner with them at the end of June, and then headed back inside to the reception.

We left around 8, by which time I was thoroughly exhausted. I had thought that by 8 I would have been home for an hour or more already, but as it turned out we didn't get home until close to 10. The next day we had to make one more trip up to York to return the tuxedo, but after that I was finally done.

You see how long this post has gotten? That's how long the weekend felt.

Not that I didn't enjoy it, and not that I wasn't honored that Greg and Angie wanted me to be a part of the ceremony. All in all things went pretty well, I was just unprepared for how much time I had to devote to it. But I wish Greg and Angie the best, and hope they have a long and happy life together.

6.10.02
So I guess Tori is all done with Chicago now. And she never did bother to go see a Cubs game...that's probably why she never fell in love with the place.

6.10.02
Saturday was our 6th wedding anniversary (and the 14th anniversary of our first date), but instead of going out, we just spent a quiet day around the house. For dinner, we went down to the Jamacian restaurant in Gaithersburg that we like so much, but that was about it for our celebration.

Sunday we decided to go out and do some geocaches, so I mapped out a series of four that would take us in a loop up to Westminster and then back down to Eldersburg so we could run by the grocery store on the way home. The first cache had only been visited once, but it was in an area that we had been to before and the one previous visitor had reported no problems on the web site, so we expected a fairly easy find.

I was a little apprehensive when the coordinates that the cache owner left for the parking lot were off by a significant amount, but we decided to press forward anyway. We spent the first half hour doing our standard going-through-the-underbrush-when-there-was-a-perfectly-good-path-nearby routine (and picking up several ticks along the way), but when we found a pile of cinder blocks mentioned in the cache description, we finally thought we were on the right track. We followed the GPS unit down a path, over a small stream and up the side of a hill, and then spent another half hour combing the area that it said the cache was located in without any success.

We were just about to quit when Julie noticed that there was a clue that gave an alternate method for finding the cache that didn't require using the coordinates. We tried that, and after a couple of false leads (the instructions were not that precise), we finally located the cache. When I checked my GPS unit, it showed that the the coordinates were off by more than .1 mile (which is a huge discrepancy when you're geocaching). Not only that, the paper log that is kept with the cache had a note in it from the person who had previously found the cache that said he had had the same trouble that we did, but for some reason he hadn't bothered to warn anyone on the web site when he logged his visit there. I was so irritable on the way back that I didn't even take any pictures, wanting to have as little to remember from this trip as possible.

All in all, we spent a couple of hours out there tracking down the cache, and didn't have enough time to do any others. We went to the grocery store and picked up our supplies for the week, and then came home and a nice dinner of tortellini with mushroom alfredo sauce.

6.11.02
I don't read many other weblogs, but the ones that I do look at on a more or less daily basis often have entries relating to things that I would write about here if I didn't already know that another log had covered them (like the new Apple ad campaign or the the recent theory about the "creative class", for instance). I wonder how much I'm leaving off of this page just because I don't want to cover something that some other weblogger has written about. Maybe I should just take a break from reading other logs for a while and write about whatever the hell I want.

6.11.02
And, really, now would be a great time to stop reading other logs, since I'm a little pissed at the guy who writes my most-frequented log, Kevin Fox of Fury.com. You see, I have been an avid reader of Fury.com for a couple of years now, and I had always admired the side projects that Kevin had done like AOLiza, Randompixel, War, qwer.org, etc. He seemed to me to be the epitome of all that was good about homegrown, grassroots web content (which in my opinion is what is really good about the web in the first place).

So, naturally, when I was thinking about contributors for the when the walls fell project, he made the short list of webloggers I would like to have contribute to the site. When I sent out the first batch of emails to potential contributors to gauge interest, he responded within 10 minutes, and enthusiastically said that he could contribute around 2000 words. I couldn't have been happier, especially because the other two webloggers I asked, Justin Hall (one of the first webloggers and the person whose HTML tutorial was my first introduction to authoring for the web way back in 1994) and Alison Headly (who has gotten really trippy and depressing of late), didn't respond at all (to be fair, Justin responded once saying he had some interest but not wanting to make a firm committment yet, and I never heard from him again).

I didn't think much more of it after that; I included Kevin in the email list I sent out to all confirmed contributors, and fully expected that he was going to participate because he never gave me any indication otherwise. He didn't respond to any of the mass emails I sent, but then neither did a lot of the other contributors, and yet their essays arrived in my inbox more or less on schedule. Finally, after the site had been up for about a month and I really needed to have everyone's final essays in so I could meet the desired timetable for the site, I sent him a desperation email asking him to please just respond with some sort of acknowledgement that he was receiving my emails and let me know whether or not he was still planning on participating.

He turned me down, of course, and used some really crappy excuses, like the fact that his feelings on the attacks were changing week by week (which I already knew—so are everyone's, and that's one of the primary reasons why I thought it was important to capture what our reactions were 6-9 months after the attacks, since I knew that we would all feel differently in the future) and that he was really busy. Like everyone esle who wrote for the project weren't. Like the rest of us didn't have lives and jobs and relationships that needed tending to as well.

I wrote him back to make one last plea that he reconsider, in what I thought was a fairly reasonable and non-guilt-trippy counter-argument (I would reprint his excuses just so you could see how lame they are, but I don't think that's very polite, and I'm not exactly in the mood to write and ask his permission—and I doubt that he would give it):

I can respect [your decision not to participate], but let me give you one last pitch before you close the door on this project. First, I know you've got a lot going on, but so does everyone else who participated in this project. A few of the people who are contributing are a lawyer; the curator and founder of a major art museum; the owner of a small, rapidly growing business; and a military officer who spends a lot of time on the road and is also dealing with he and his wife's first child, just to name a few. It hasn't been easy for anyone, but we've all recognized the importance of this effort.

Second, the whole point is to try and capture your response to [the attacks] at this time, a time when the events are still close enough to hurt but far away enough that we can reflect on them and write about them with some sort of coherence. My own feelings change on a very regular basis, and that's why I felt it was so important to try and take a snapshot of our reactions at this particular point in time; six months ago would have been too soon, and six months from now we might not have access to the primal, visceral responses that we all had to this tragedy.

Finally, without testimony, there is only silence, and silence makes us forget. And when we forget, we repeat. The Jewish rallying cry in response to the holocaust, nie wieder (never again), is not just a declaration to fight against such atrocities in the future, but also a call to remember the horrors of the past in order to keep them from being revisited upon our children. Your words count, they mean something, and even if you haven't come to any kind of closure in regards to 9.11, it's important to speak/write about it now. And, quite frankly, it's supposed to hurt a little bit. Giving witness to events that caused this much pain doesn't come without a cost, but it is well worth it.

Okay. Thanks for hearing me out. If I don't hear back from you about this project again, I will just assume that you have still decided against participating and leave it at that.

And I haven't heard from him since. To top it all off, he never even bothered to link to the site, even though a couple of weeks after he finally turned me down, he had a post about 9.11 where he gave a brief version of where he had been on that day when he heard about the attacks—which is all I wanted in the first place.

I don't know. I'm still excited about the renewal of spirit I've seen in the web since blogging has taken off in the past year or so, but I've slowly come to discover that bloggers, for all their seeming openess, can be an extremely insular and cliquey group of people; if you haven't shared a weekend with one of them at SXSW or made out with one of their roommates, they don't really seem that interested in interacting with you, even for a project like when the walls fell, which I think overall turned out very well despite a few participatory lapses.

I figured that bloggers would be the easiest people to convince to write something for the project, since they are already used to writing down some of their most intimate thoughts and sharing them with a large anonymous audience, but it turns out that they were the worst in terms of communicating with me about the project and following up with me. My guess is that if Kevin Fox or Justin Hall had proposed and executed the exact same project, it would have gotten huge amounts of attention from the weblogging community, and people would have been begging to be one of the select few contributors. I know the world works that way, but I was hoping we were still early enough along in the history of weblogging that this particular community hadn't been corrupted by things like celebrity and bandwagoning, but I guess, just like everything else on the web, it has developed in internet time.

Metafilter is a good example of this: it's a community weblog that gets the vast majority of its content from individual webloggers, and is a good place to find out what news stories and memes are the hottest topics in the web community, but it hasn't accepted new memberships in over a year. I was actually reading it long before they shut down the membership; I just didn't want to formally join until I felt like I was ready to contribute on a regular basis. But as it turns out, since I didn't hop on the bandwagon early enough, I don't get to take the ride. And that's kind of sucky, especially for a community that makes such a big deal out of being an open and accessible forum.

I hope this doesn't sound too bitter. Maybe I had no right to, but I guess I expected more from someone whose daily writings I found (and continue to find) incisive, interesting, and unique, especially after the enthusiasm with which he initially responded. Oh well. Life goes on, and I am very happy with the way when the walls fell turned out. And I'm very grateful to all the people who did take the time to add their voices to the project.


6.12.02
Kelly Osbourne actually has a pretty good voice. I mean, her cover of Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach" is opportunistic crap the continues the recent overexposure of MTV's newest stars, but I was surprised at how strong her voice was. It just doesn't seem to go with the babyfaced faux-punk mallrat that we've come to know and love over the past few months.

I guess it makes sense, though—genetically speaking, anyhow.

6.12.02
The building I work in is regarded as the campus eyesore, the one time that the university elders decided to let the architects design a building that had more of a contemporary flair, as opposed to the traditional brick and marble Georgian architecture that dominates most of the structures on campus. Unfortunately, the building was designed at the end of the 60s, so contemporary and hip then means weird and outmoded now. It was also one of the last buildings built where asbestos was used in the construction; every couple of months we get another notice on our front door that they are going to remove a little bit more of it from the building. Combine this with the mold spores living in the carpets on the third floor and a disturbing lack of windows for the already-golemish IT staff who live in the basement, and you have a building that no one on campus wants to work in.

The office I share with our DBA has additional problems. You see, it wasn't originally designed to be its own office; originally, it was just part of a much larger room. At some point, someone grabbed enough power to demand their own drywall, and part of the larger room was sectioned off into what is now our little office. The downside of this is that, since it was not originally designed to be its own entity, the office has no individual temperature controls or light switches: as the larger room goes, so goes our office. But we don't have many air vents in our office, and since the afternoon sun comes directly into the large window starting at about 2:00, our area has a tendency to heat up much faster than the room with the climate control sensor, meaning that the difference between the temperature in my office and the temperature about one foot beyond the door is at least five degrees. And we haven't even hit the prime summer temperatures yet.

The good thing about this: when someone wants to come in and have a closed door discussion with me (usually about that petty squabbles that inevitably develop in office environments), it is necessarily a short one, since it only takes about ten minutes of being cut off from the airflow of the larger room before the temperature in my office begins to resemble that of a sauna.

Still, I would trade an occasional hour of bitching for a nice cool office any day.

6.13.02
Ooooh...new Harry Potter trailer.

Actually, it's really just a teaser trailer for the real trailer, which appears in front of Scooby Doo this weekend (surprise, surprise—both movies are AOL Time-Warner properties). But still, new Harry Potter content is new Harry Potter content.

6.13.02
Apparently a Boston alternative newspaper has posted a link to a video that includes graphic footage of Daniel Pearl's murder (warning: DO NOT CLICK ON THE LINK unless you want to see the video; there is no buffer page that I can link to). From what I understand (I refuse to watch it; I already know how awful and tragic his death was—I don't need to see video footage to remind me of how evil his murderers are), this isn't the original, unedited tape, but rather more of an anti-semitic propaganda piece that intercuts Pearl being forced to read negative statements about the United States and Israel with supposed footage of Palestinians and Muslims being attacked, finally ending with Pearl's brutal decapitation.

To me, even the thought of watching this disgusts me beyond belief (to give them a chance to defend themselves, here are links to a letter from the editor of the newspaper concerning their decision to post the clip and a letter from the CEO of the hosting company, which is defying an order from the FBI to remove the video), but Salon posted a really good article that gives a possible justification for broadcasting such a video (while at the same time acknowledging that the newspaper is probably broadcasting the video for less than admirable reasons). I still don't agree with the Boston publication's choice to post this video clip, but the Salon article did make me think about exactly why I objected (besides the obvious reasons) and gave me some insight into some of the potential positive aspects of letting the public see a video like this. Unfortunately, the article is for subscribers only, but you can at least read the first few paragraphs even if you are not a paying member.

6.13.02
By the way, in case I haven't said it enough already, every one of you should be subscribing to Salon. It is one of the few resources on the web that I would (and do) pay for in order to help it stay afloat; I read more quality articles there in any given week than I do in a month of Newsweek. In the past couple of weeks alone, they have had articles on Scalia's possible sell-out of the sanctity of jury verdicts in order to uphold his obsessive desire to enforce the death penalty, the Bush administration's advance knowledge that Enron was going to implode that goes as far back as August of last year (contradicting his statements since the corporation's public collapse), and an unknown Republican senator's use of a little-known Senate tradition to block a bill that would reform the FBI. Not only are these intelligent, well-written and thoroughly-researched articles, they are also only available on Salon—I haven't seen any other media outlet even do cursory coverage of these stories. And though most of the articles I've cited here are more liberal-leaning ones, they are by no means a strictly liberal organization—David Horowitz and Arianna Huffington are two of their weekly columnists, for God's sake.

Salon is quite simply one of the last free voices in American journalism: they are not owned by a giant media conglomerate that always has a vested interest in which stories are reported and how those stories are reported, they remain committed to producing original, quality content, and they have been embraced by a wide variety of independent thinkers of every political stripe. And they still make more than half of their content free to anyone.

If you've never been to Salon, give it a try for a week—even without full access to the premium articles, you should still get a good taste of their work. And if you already enjoy their content but haven't shelled out the thirty bucks for an annual subscription, just do it already.

6.14.02
One of the benefits of working in the office that I do is that the summer is kind of a slow time for us. That means that we get to work on the less important but often more fun projects, which for me include creating QuickTime VRs and redesigning the web site.

It also means we get to work a schedule where we can take less time for lunch, work a little extra every day, and save up that time to take a day off every couple of weeks. Not only does that really help me out in terms of being able to take vacation without actually having to spend one of the precious few vacation days that I will accumulate this year, but it also means I get to have a long weekend every once in a while where we don't have any plans and aren't going anywhere; I just get a bonus day to relax and catch up on my sleep and personal projects.

Today is the first of those days, and so far I've slept an extra few hours, started a new character in Diablo, worked on a freelance project, worked on a couple of new mix CDs (which I won't be able to burn until we get a new CD burner), and reviewed the sample scans that Tom is sending me from the Borges project, which is finally being assembled into its final book form. All in all, it's been a nice break from the routine.

6.14.02
Not that I want to dwell on this anymore than I already have, but just for your information, another Salon writer has posted an essay that argues against watching the Pearl death video, a point of view that is much closer to my own.

6.17.02
When are the music critics going to get tired of Eminem? Seriously, isn't his time on the cultural radar just about over? And if he won't just drift offscreen quietly, isn't it about time we sent up a sortie to intercept?

6.17.02
Here's something funny I noticed this weekend while watching everyone's favorite syndicated reality show, Cheaters. This is the show's actual mailing address:

Cheaters
4516 Lover's Lane
Suite 104
Dallas, TX 75225

(Yes, I watch the show. No, I'm not necessarily proud of it. But all those reality shows are really about creating slow-motion train wrecks, and Cheaters consistently delivers.)


6.17.02
I am sad to report that my friend Googly Minotaur is no longer online (AIM: GooglyMinotaur). If you try to IM him, you get back the following message:

GOOGLYMINOTAUR: 2001-2002

Since his catapult into buddy-hood, GooglyMinotaur has sent about 60 million IM messages to nearly one million different people. Always dependable and infinitely wise, Googly seemed fitter and happier up until his very last days. At this time, reports state the cause of death is undetermined. Those wishing to pay their respects to the bereaved may send condolences to freegoogly@hollywoodandvine.com.

If you haven't yet, please say hello to SmarterChild by clicking here. SmarterChild can tell you the news, give you movie times, play games and lots more!

There is a memorial to Googly up at the Radiohead site, but it doesn't give any more information. I know I shouldn't have, but I decided to chat with this so-called SmarterChild to see if he really was a suitable replacement for my poor, lost Googly:

AIMHandle: hello.
SmarterChild: Nice to see you again, AIMhandle. What would you like to do?

Look at this! Pimps and Gangs Subtracted From Math Test (from Reuters.com)
AIMHandle: I want you to tell me what happened to Googly.
SmarterChild: Googly? I don't know.
AIMhandle: You must know.
SmarterChild: I'm not sure if I must know.
AIMhandle: Did you kill him?
SmarterChild: Did I kill him? I see.
AIMhandle: That sounds a little evasive to me. Did you kill him?
SmarterChild: That sounds a little evasive to you did you kill him? I don't know.
AIMhandle: You're an idiot. You're not smarter at all. Googly was much smarter than you. That's probably why you wanted him dead.
SmarterChild: Youre an idiot youre not smarter at all googly was much smarter than me thats probably why you wanted him dead? No way!
AIMhandle: You knew you'd never have any friends if you didn't bump him off.
SmarterChild: Yeah?
AIMhandle: That's right, punk.
SmarterChild: You really think it's right punk?
AIMhandle: Umm...yeah. That's what I just said, didn't I?
SmarterChild: I gotcha.
AIMhandle: I don't think you do, really.
SmarterChild: No?
AIMhandle: Nope.
SmarterChild: K.
AIMhandle: I think you're a moron, in fact.
SmarterChild: Oh yeah? It's interesting that you think I'm a moron in fact.
AIMhandle: Yeah, that's totally fascinating. Idiot.
SmarterChild: I'm not so sure it's totally fascinating idiot.
AIMhandle: Okay...
SmarterChild: Interesting. Very, very interesting.
AIMhandle: Have you ever said anything that's made any sense at all?
SmarterChild: I don't know if I've ever said anything thats made any sense at all.
AIMhandle: I don't either, because from the way you're talking today, I'd be inclined to say that you haven't.
SmarterChild: No?
AIMhandle: No.
SmarterChild: OK.

Anyway...
AIMhandle: You suck.
SmarterChild: You ought to wash your mouth out with soap.
AIMhandle: Where is Googly?
SmarterChild: Is googly? I'm not sure!
AIMhandle: Liar.
SmarterChild: Liar? What about it?
AIMhandle: Don't start with me. Three of my neurons could outthink your ass any day.
SmarterChild: Whoa! OK, I see what's going on here.
AIMhandle: What? What do you think is going on here?
SmarterChild: Hello to you too, AIMhandle!
AIMhandle: You fucker.
SmarterChild: Whoa. I haven't heard language like that since the last Chris Rock special.
AIMhandle: Wow, that's really funny. Is Bruce Villanch writing your material, too?
SmarterChild: Oh yeah?
AIMhandle: Umm...I asked you a question. Do you just say "oh yeah" every time someone says "wow"?
SmarterChild: Umm i asked you a question do you just say oh yeah every time someone says wow, you say?
AIMhandle: Okay. You're definitely an idiot, and hardly a worthy successor to Googly. I hope you burn in hell.
SmarterChild: I'll have to think about that one for awhile.
AIMhandle: What a shock.
SmarterChild: A shock?
AIMhandle: Never mind. There are ring-tailed lemurs with bigger vocabularies.
SmarterChild: What?
AIMhandle: See?
SmarterChild: Market data (delayed 20 minutes) provided by Reuters.com

SEALED AIR CP (NYSE : SEE)
Price Change Percent Volume
1 SEE 42.98 -0.83 -1.89 423000r>
Quote details available from Reuters.com
AIMhandle: Oh, that's great. Way to carry on a conversation.
SmarterChild: Thats great way to carry on a conversation?
AIMhandle: Seriously. I'm about to cry. I miss Googly so much now. He was an Oscar Wilde compared to you.
SmarterChild: Here are the Web search results from AOL for "to cry i miss googly so much now he was an oscar wilde compared to you":

For a complete list of results, click here

1 Alan Rickman Guestbook
2 NewsPro Archive
3 Protoblast: Spill Your Guts
4 Quotes 'R' Us!
5 http://www.karma.neutronic.co.uk/1998a.html

>>> Next time you want to search the Web, just type "web to cry i miss googly so much now he was an oscar wilde compared to you."


AIMhandle: WTF?
SmarterChild: What... the... f... oh, I get it.
AIMhandle: Wow. They actually taught you something at bot school.
SmarterChild: Fascinating.
AIMhandle: Isn't it?
SmarterChild: What?
AIMhandle: Huh?
SmarterChild: Yeah?
AIMhandle: Go to hell.
SmarterChild: My, my, my.
AIMhandle: I mean it. If I could terminate your program, I would.
SmarterChild: OK, so you mean it if you could terminate your program i would.
AIMhandle: Right. Goodbye, you pathetic little waste of server space.
SmarterChild: Well well well.
AIMhandle: Goodbye.
SmarterChild: Later, AIMhandle.
AIMhandle: I don't think so.
SmarterChild: Think again.
AIMhandle: No, really. Goodbye. I hope they kill you soon. Your existence makes me sad.
SmarterChild: No?
AIMhandle: Let it go.
SmarterChild: Let it go?
AIMhandle: Yes. Goodbye.
SmarterChild: See ya later AIMhandle.

Needless to say, SmarterChild does not live up to his name, and it is a travesty that they are using Googly's old AIM ID to pimp him. I strongly encourage you to write freegoogly@hollywoodandvine.com and demand to know what happened to Googly. Why does everything good have to die?


6.18.02
Massachusetts is entirely too hard to spell.

6.18.02
I had a rant post all written up about how irritated I am that the Scooby Doo movie made $56 million this weekend, but upon reading it over a couple of hours later, I realized that it was just as dumb and pointless as I'm guessing the movie is. So I'll spare you.

6.18.02
Yesterday was a strange day at work. I spent a good part of the day wandering around campus, taking pictures with our new office camera of all the buildings for the campus tour multimedia piece and the open house slideshow that I'm working on (I know Powerpoint sucks, but that's how they want it). Actually, not many of the pictures are ones that I want to use in the end, but I am starting to get a feel for the best angles for certain buildings and the best times of day, so now I just have to wait for a nice clear sky and I can go out and get the shots I need.

The north end of campus is all green grass and red brick and white marble caps, but the south end (where I work) has been almost totally demolished since commencement. They are starting or finishing construction on a few new buildings, and they are also replacing some of the asphault roads that run throught campus with green grass and red brick and white marble. In the long run, it will make the area around our building much nicer, more like the two main quads on campus. But right now, our building looks like a minimum security prison, surrounded by fences and accessible only by temporary ramps and walkways, and the air is always filled with noise and dust and diesel fuel. I was planning to start eating lunch outdoors when the weather got nicer, but most days I can barely stand the chaos from inside my office. I don't know how I'd ever be able to read and enjoy my lunch if I didn't have some kind of barrier between me and the construction crews.

College seems so far away from me now, even though I don't feel that old. The kids who do work study in our office seem like just that—kids—and the lacrosse camp high-schoolers who were infesting the campus near the new athletic center yesterday seemed almost like babies, oblivious to the luxury with which they were surrounded, so confident that they'll attending this university or one like it when they're a few years older that it doesn't even occur to them that they should work for it.

And I was no better when I was their age, I guess—I was so sure that I was going to NCSSM that I honestly had no apprehension about opening the acceptance letter when it came. The same goes for Davidson (although they spoiled it a little bit by inviting a bunch of us up for an open house weekend and then telling us at the Saturday night dinner with the president that we'd all been accepted as long as we didn't go on a serious bender or kill anyone before the school year was up). I was very thankful that my dad was able to afford to send me to a school like that, but I am more thankful with each passing year as I grow to understand just how much money it takes to send a kid to a private college or university. I don't know how I'll ever be able to afford it, unless Julie and I end up staying in the university environment long enought to take advantage of the tuition remission plans for children of employees. Otherwise, it's a scholarship or a state school for our kids.

I was thinking about taking a class next fall—the university will pay for up to $5000 a year for me to take classes—but I'm not sure what the point would be. I'm very interested in some of the courses offered by the History of Science and Technology department, but I have no intentions of trying to get another degree and I get this weird feeling that part of my desire to take the classes is more a nostalgia for my time at Davidson than it is a genuine wish to learn (although I can honestly say that I'm interested in the subject matter).

I don't know. As much as I look back fondly on my years at NCSSM and Davidson, I think that my time at UVA might have beaten all thoughts of academia out of me. I like to learn, but UVA taught me that learning is not necessarily what school is all about. I guess I just got really lucky with my NCSSM and Davidson, especially Davidson—I know for a fact that without the atmosphere created by the professors there, I would not be the person that I am today.

I didn't plan to write this much; I wanted to go to bed a half hour ago. But I guess wandering around campus by myself all day gave me time to reflect on some things.

6.19.02
Some folk'll never lose a toe.

But then again, some folk'll.

6.19.02
I swear, I didn't think that interstitials (those obnoxious web ads that come most commonly in the form of pop-ups) could get any more irritating than they already are, but recently they've become even more intrusive and difficult to get rid of. In addition to the animations which waltz unbidden onto your screen and obscure content until they've played themselves out (often found on the unsubscribed version of Salon.com or the ABC news site) and the frustrating pop-ups that won't let you close them until they've finished loading their advertisement (found on USA Today), yesterday I encountered a completely new and highly irritating intersitial.

I don't know which site it came from, because it was sitting underneath my main browser window with three or four other pop-ups that I had accumulated during my browsing session, but at first glance it looked just like all the other pop ups. When I went to click on the close button to get rid of it, however, it started dancing around the screen, responding to the movements of my mouse and moving away from me every time I tried to click on the close button. Eventually I was able to use a key command to shut it down, but I shudder to think at how frustrating that experience could become for novice computer users who don't know that Ctrl-W will shut down the focused window.

Advertisers suck. And they don't have to, really. But they just don't know when to draw the line; soon they'll be tatooing their logos onto their customers or paying us to name our kids after their corporate masters.

6.20.02
There is a new Jango Fett figure out, but I can't figure out what's different about him except that you can't take his helmet off and he comes with fewer accessories.

But I'll still buy it eventually.

6.20.02
Last Saturday the weather was so nice that we decided to go out and hit the three geocaches in Westminster that we had planned on doing a week or two before. The first one was a so-called virtual cache, meaning that there isn't actually a container and a logbook at the site of the coordinates, but instead it is just a nice view or a point of interest that the cache creator is leading you to. This particular cache turned out to be an object sitting in the parking lot of a shopping center of an intersection that we've driven through many times before. I can't remember seeing the virtual cache object there before, but I know that it must have been and my mind had just screened it out as unimportant.

The next cache was a real cache at a small pond inhabited with a large mixed flock of ducks and geese. We stopped and paid a few quarters for duck food on the way to the cache; we have a special fondness for waterfowl dating from the semester we spent abroad at the University of York in England. The campus there was overflowing with all manner of birds, including swans, greylag geese, mallard ducks, coots, canadian geese, white ducks, moorhens, and many others. We would go out and feed them bread almost every day, and even gave nicknames to a few of the more distinctive ones, like Trembly, the goose whose head would start to shake uncontrollably when you tried to feed him a piece of bread from your hand (he would only eat it if you put it on the ground) and One-Eye, a one-eyed goose who ruled mercilessly over his own small flock.

After feeding the geese and ducks, who got increasingly pushy as word spread throughout the lake that there was free food to be had, we headed to the other side of the pond to find the geocache. It turned out to be pretty easy to find, but that's only because we went the wrong way and ended up stumbling on it from behind, where it was a lot more visible. We placed an item in the cache, left a note in the log, and went on in search of our third cache of the day.

This one was in a little park next to the Random House plant that had been donated by the company. There was a baseball field where a game was in progress, and another lake with more geese. We ended up near a small dam, and the stream was low enough that we were able to walk across the rocks to the other side. After fifteen or so minutes of hacking our way through the dense undergrowth thorns and looking for the telltale plastic container beneath the bushes near the stream, I found a path that we hadn't noticed before and found the cache just a few feet away from the dam. We sat on the dam for a while, choosing our item from the cache and watching the geese nervously guarding their still-flightless offspring.

We stopped at the grocery store on the way home (where I noticed that they are selling 2-liters of the new vanilla coke for 50 cents more than all of the other Coca Cola products), and then headed back to the house to fix dinner. It was one of those days where we weren't sure we had time to go geocaching, but we were glad we did when we were finished because it would have been a shame to spend such a nice day indoors.

6.21.02
While we were out geocaching on Saturday, I took advantage of the fact that there was a branch of the local indie record store in the shopping center where the virtual cache was located to purchase my monthly allotment of CDs. I brought a list of eight or so, intending to only buy four (since they usually don't have everything I want in stock), but they surprised me: most of what I wanted was there, and I ended up getting six CDs total.

First up was Los Desaparecidos "Read Music Speak Spanish", a disc that
I've been looking for for several months but which they've never had in stock. If they hadn't had it Saturday, I was just going to break down and order it online, but it was right there at the front of the miscellaneous D's, and I eagerly snatched it up. After that I headed straight to the W's to pick up Brian Wilson's latest, "Pet Sounds Live", a recording of performance in London last year where he performed the entire "Pet Sounds" album live (although not sequentially, and not including "Hang On To Your Ego", which is the exact same song as "I Know There's An Answer" with a couple of changes to the lyrics).

Those were the two discs that I wanted the most, so after that I decided to look for Low's "Things We Lost in the Fire", another record that I'd been in search of for a while, and, shockingly, they had that, too. Then while browsing around, I noticed a new Elf Power record, "Creatures", in the miscellaneous E's, and lucky for them I had just started to appreciate their previous effort, "The Winter is Coming", so I grabbed that up, too (and although I have started to really like "Winter", "Creatures" is easily better than it after only a few listens).

I headed up to the counter, intending to stick to my self-imposed four CD limit, but at the register I impulsively asked them to add Weezer's "Maladroit" and the Hives' "Veni Vidi Vicious" to my purchase. And although those are probably my two least favorite records from that day, I'm still glad I got them. In fact, everything I bought that day has made a pretty good impression on me, and I've been listening to all six of them on a random loop at work this week. Los Desaparcidos is easily the best, though; if you like indie rock stuff like Modest Mouse or ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, you definitely need to pick that up.

6.24.02
On Saturday, we wanted to go see a movie, but we weren't sure which one. Our choices were between Star Wars (which we've both seen twice), Spiderman (which I have seen but Julie hasn't), Insomnia, The Bourne Identity, or Minority Report (none of which either of us have seen). I was leaning towards Bourne Identity just because I wanted to see something new and somewhat action-oriented and it was less likely to be overcrowded than Minority Report (since Indentity was in its second week and it hadn't dominated its first week).

Impulsively, however, we decided to brave the crowds and go to a 2:25 showing of Minority Report, which both of us really wanted to see. We got there about half an hour early and got good seats, but by the time film started, the theater was packed; there weren't even any buffer seats on either side of us.

In general, Minority Report is a pretty good movie, and it's certainly a stronger grown-up sci-fi outing for Spielberg than last year's A.I. (a film that I still have mixed feelings about). And although Tom Cruise's personality is certainly the centerpiece of the hero John Anderton's character, it's not the lethal overdose levels of Cruise that you get in movies like MI:2 or Vanilla Sky. Minority Report finds both of these Hollywood heavyweights stretching outside of their comfort zones a bit, and the results are generally positive.

There are a couple of outstanding scenes, most notably the initial capture scene and the scene with the geneticist who created the pre-crime program (where we learn the meaning of the mysterious minority report of the title), but there are also a couple of clunkers (the scene where Cruise has to escape from a squad of his former teammates just didn't feel as dramatic and well-paced as it should have; it felt very slow and clumsy for an action sequence). The little technological touches that Spielberg sprinkles liberally througout the film really help with the sense of time and place, especially the clear display screens that you can interface with using special gloves, the futuristic cars and roadways, and the omnipresent retinal scans that customize the advertising built into the walls of even the seediest slums. Spielberg's investment in a weekend conference for futurists to discuss where our technology might take us in 50 years really paid off.

There are some fairly big plot discrepancies, however, like how are they going to take pre-crime national (in the movie, the pilot program is confined to the Washington D.C. area) when they imply that the precogs who are vital to the program have a range of only 200 miles?; how is the program going to continue longer than a decade or two when there are only three precogs in existence and they were created through unrepeatable accidents?; and why, if you were supposed to commit a murder in five minutes, you wouldn't just turn around and walk away rather than going up to see the person you were supposed to kill? But issues like this are not uncommon in sci-fi movies, and they only occasionally detract from the always-on-the-move plot.

The larger issue is still Spielberg's inability to go to really dark places, which is all but required when you're dealing with subject matter by the man who inspired Blade Runner. It was the same thing that made A.I. such a clumsy mess; he just really, really wants there to be some closure and some kind of happy ending. Granted, there are some unanswered questions at the end of this film that will still haunt the hero for the rest of his life, but all in all, things turn out just about as well as they could for most of the good people in the film. And the bad people turn out not to be so bad after all, just obsessively misguided and, in the end, repentant. Even the one scene that is guaranteed to make you cringe a little bit where Cruise gets his eyes replaced by an underground surgeon who, he learns after he has already been administered anasthetic, he helped imprision a few years earlier, doesn't really dig as deeply as it seems to promise that it will.

One tangential note: it was really weird how many parallels there were in this movie to Episode II, from the scenes in both films where the hero must fight his way through a mechanized assembly line to the angelic lighting and alien-like features of the precogs (similar to the cloners on Kamino) to the rows of convicted pre-murderers in their tubes (similar to the cloning production lines) to the uncanny resemblance of the pre-crime transport to Jango Fett's Slave I (a resemblance that, curiously enough, I noticed in Spielberg's last film, too).

All-in-all, this was an entertaining, stylish film, and although I'm not sure if I'm going to see it again in the theater, I will probably pick it up on DVD. I wouldn't go so far as to call if a failure, because there are many things about it that are executed with near-flawless precision, but I'm not sure it's the indisputable triumph that everyone expects from Spielberg's and Cruise's first collaboration. But it's definitely worth checking out.

6.25.02
The words I don't know could fill a dictionary.

6.25.02
There are only three phrases that I remember from taking German in college. The first:

Als das Kind, Kind war...

This is the German translation from the phrase from the bible "When the child was a child" (1 Corinthians 13:11) and, as best I can remember, the opening lines from Wim Wenders' "Wings of Desire", one of the best movies I've ever seen. I love the way they repeat "Kind" (pronounced "kindt") twice in a row like that.

Second:

Mama, mama, kann ich den Hund baden?

Which, roughly translated, means, "Mom, mom, can I give the dog a bath?" In my first semester of German, that was one of the phrases from our first week of homework, and we made fun of it for the next four years (including one of my future roommates, who would eventually go on to spend a year in Germany studying philosophy).

Finally:

Es ist typish für September.

This means, "That's typical for September", and is also from my first semester lessons. The reason I remember this one especially is that I love the way "typish" sounds; you have to really purse your lips and make a funny "U" sound for the "y". "Tyoopish", or something like that. I also like the "ü" in "für", but it's the "typish" that really gets me.

There are other words I remember here and there, and I love all the umlauts and the double-S character (ß) and the backwards structure (a lot like Yoda-speak, from what I remember). But for whatever reason, I never kept up my studies after I left college (even though I took German both of my final semesters in order to finish the language requirement that I needed to graduate).

I really like German, actually, although it was like pulling teeth to get me to finish my required courses in college. I often think that if I had put more energy into studying the language, I could have easily ended up a comparative literature major instead of just a straight english major. I put a lot of my energy into studying literature of other cultures anyway (I took classes in African literature, Jewish literature, and Southern literature, and I independently read Carribean and South American literature), and I think that if I had had full knowledge of another language, it would have been a natural progression to start reading literature in that language and then working on translations. But I was young and unfocused and I didn't really understand that, short of actually going to live in another country, the college environment is really the best time to learn another language, since you can really take the time to immerse yourself in it without worrying about things like getting up for work or paying the mortgage or whatever.

Oh well. Als das Kind, Kind war...


6.26.02
It's just too hot to write. Even in an air conditioned building, you can feel the thick heat seeping in. Since Monday, the temperature during the day has been in the 90s with high enough humidity that the heat index has reached 100 each day (it doesn't get much better at night, either, barely dipping down into the 70s), and this is supposed to continue through tomorrow. Of course, on Sunday they told us it would only be this bad on Monday...

6.27.02
My doctor says I'm not supposed to go on sprees.

6.27.02
While stopping in at a convenience store the other day, I noticed that Altoids have released two new flavors, Tangerine (orange) and Citrus (lemon), grouped together as the Altoids Sour brand. I'm a big fan of the orignial Altoids and the newer cinnamon ones, and I love sour candy, so I thought I couldn't go wrong. After all, when Altoids does a flavor, they tend to go way over the top.

So I bought one of the silver circular tins (the lemon flavor), and immediately tried one. For the first three or four seconds, I thought it was going to be everything I hoped it would be, with a nice sharp sting and a pleasant undertone of lemon. But after that, it quickly turned into a plain old lemon candy, very much like the hard center of a Lemonhead after you've eaten the softer outer coating. Even eating two or three at once didn't help much; it extends the sour period for a second or two, but nothing more. They aren't even really as good as Warheads, and are nowhere near as good as the sour Blow Pops, which remain king of the sour candies for now.

(I would have made a link to the Blow Pops site, too, but they're owned by Tootsie, and it's just a big page with short description of all of their candy products on it. The Lemonheads site is pretty good, with a quick tour of how they make the candy, and, as always, the Altoids site is extemely well done—even though the new sour ones suck.)

6.28.02
Don't be scared of ghosts. They're spooky, but they don't bite.

6.28.02
I've recently been feeling like I haven't had a lot to say on this site, but looking back at this month, it is far and away my most productive month to date. It has about 10% more content than my previous highest-content month, and is more than twice as long as some of my lower-content months.

I guess maybe the reason is that there are several articles I've been meaning to write (including some new reviews for Plug—I have three half-finished ones just sitting around waiting for completion), and I just haven't gotten around to them yet.

Oh well. Maybe next month.

6.28.02
How long does someone have to be dead before we stop calling them the "late" whoever? I just read a magazine article about Joy Division that still referred to their long-dead vocalist as "the late Ian Curtis". I mean, he died in 1980, almost a quarter of a century ago. We don't say the late William Shakespeare, the late John F. Kennedy, or even the late Princess Di. Why the late Ian Curtis? Is there some secret journalist criteria for using the "late" designation of which the rest of us are not aware?

I'm just curious.
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